Published Date: February 24, 2020
This week’s music – Purple Royalty– YehudahKatz
This Shabbat, Parshat Shekalim, marks the Shabbat that we bless the forthcoming new month of Adar, 5780. That means that Purim, the favorite holiday all over Tekoa, is less than 18 days away. One of the concepts highlighted each Purim is mentioned at the end of “Megilat Esther. In the 12th month, which is the month of Adar, on the 13th day of the month, when the king’s order and his edict drew near to be put into execution, on the day that the Jews’ enemies looked forward to ruling over them, “v’nahafoch hu,” the edict was overturned, the Jews will now rule over their enemies (Esther 9.1).
Do we need to wait for such a threat to look forward to our forthcoming spiritual revolution? Just last week we read in Parshat Yitro, Hashem promises us, “…and you will be specifically chosen for me from all of the nations…” (Shmot 19.5). And yet so many of our brothers and sisters refuse to identify with this promise. Some insist that we are no different than any other people, others choose not to identify as Jews, and some of us are simply afraid. “And you should be to me a kingdom of ‘Kohanim’ and a holy nation” (Shmot 19.6). We’ve got an identity to fess up to. We are charged with the job of acting and behaving in a holy manner, all of the time. That is our true connection to the infinite light of God. That is the revelation of our soulful purpose in this world.
Shortly thereafter we received the Torah and we mamash unite together as One so we could live in a place beyond the norms of society. “And the entire nation saw the sounds” (Shmot 20.15). They clearly understood that to receive this awesome gift of The Holy Torah they needed to go beyond.
Let’s go back to the quote from Reb Shlomo that we shared last week, “Why isn’t Moshiach coming? We are still a little afraid of it actually happening… At The Red Sea we learned not to be afraid and to trust God in the deepest way.”
So sure, the fear of the unknown future world can present each of us with a challenge to our faith. If we can maintain the faith that, as The Jews of Persia led by Mordechai and Esther did, we too can reach the point where they understood that Hashem is the one with full control, with the signet of the king designing the plan and continuing to do so until we say, “we are ready!” Shlomo’s teaching continues, “to love people can terrify us. The only ones who are not afraid are our children.” Why can’t we still be a bit childlike, innocent and secure? Why can’t we keep it simple? Why do I feel that I need to be in control? Only because I am afraid of what might be.
In the book of Tehilim we are given such a clear path to get to that place of humble self, without fear of the other. “Yirei Adonai, bitchu Ba’Adonai, ezram umaginam Hu,” those who are in awe of God have trust in God, as He helps them and protects them (Psalms 115.11). Reb Levi Yitzchak, in his teaching on this week’s Torah portion of Mishpatim, emphasizes that we need to relate to Hashem in awe of the great distance that exists between us, and in love, thanking Him for the great gifts he showers on us daily. The Slonimer Rebbe sites the Talmudic teaching, the very fact that I can lift up my finger in the morning is absolutely only because it is decreed from above (Chulin 7). That is an awesome command and at the same time, such a loving gesture. We are indeed blessed to receive spiritual heavenly influence every day.
Perhaps we can understand from this aforementioned verse in Psalms that a clearly directed outcome of “yirat Hashem,” being in awe of God, is finding the place inside of me to totally trust God. I need to develop my most humble relationship with Hashem by first and foremost acknowledging how magnified and far away He is. From that platform, I can begin to learn how to receive the love that He sends us every day.
This week I was looking for some practical ways to connect to this concept of yearning for the future, the desire to be redeemed from fear, get out of my personal Mitzraim, and dream about Redemption. I came across a teaching from Rav Chaim Hachalban, zt”l, where he asks, why don’t we put as much energy into the 15th blessing of The Amidah, which cries to Hashem that we are looking forward and hoping all day for his Salvation, as much as we invest our emotions in the 8th blessing of ‘Refa’aynu, “the prayer requesting a healing for all those who are ill?” Perhaps it is because the illness is real. It is in front of my eyes all of the time. As much as I fear it, I can relate to it. I am comfortable with it as I have learned to deal with it in various stages of my life. But Salavation? Not that comfortable with a world I know little to nothing about. So I need to lean on that faith, Emunah and have trust in myself that I can be worthy of this great gift from Hashem, that He absolutely will protect us.
That led me to try to fine tune my connection to the other blessings in The Amidah which fall into that category of the futuristic unknown. Blessing number 7, “Go’el Yisrael,” the redeemer of Israel,” number 10, “v’kabtzenu yachad me’arba kanfot ha’aretz l’artzenu,” bring us together from all four corners of the earth to our Land, and finally “…You will dwell in Jerusalem, Your city as You had said…” If I can say those blessings three times a day, I should, “bezrat Hashem,” with God’s help, be able to believe them too and yearn for them to be actualized now, with no fear of failure and of the future unknown.
That’s where we go on Purim. We wear costumes, we get a little drunk and we free ourselves and all others from criticism. We simply jump into the Purim story. We allow ourselves the honest recognition that we too are in the big story that Hashem has been scripting and as the Jews of Persia did, we accept the unknown terms of the revolution that is about to take place.
May we be blessed to let go, appreciate our freedom, sing a song and let it take us to places that we never knew existed.